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Things were relatively quiet as Kevin Woodson '03JD worked on a final paper in the Law School computer lab on the afternoon of May 21. “Then I heard a very loud noise,” recalls Woodson. “None of us knew what it was, but we left when we saw debris starting to fall from the ceiling. A bomb was the furthest thing from our minds.”
But it was a bomb that exploded one flight up in Room 120, damaging that classroom and the adjacent Alumni Reading Room. Coming while the nation was under an elevated terror alert, the blast brought a massive response from all levels of law enforcement. Once it was clear that no one had been injured, though, the university’s end-of-the-year rituals continued more or less as planned—albeit with tighter security and a sense of puzzlement about the crime.
The closing of the building as a crime scene during final exams (and five days before commencement) posed logistical challenges for the school. Students were housed and fed in Ezra Stiles College, exams were moved to alternate locations, and temporary office space was set up in Woolsey Hall. But the building reopened for commencement events on Sunday, May 25. “People worked literally around the clock to make it happen,” says Law School dean Anthony Kronman.
In addition to the damaged interiors, water from a sprinkler head broken in the blast seeped into a collection of rare books in the library below. Some 300 books were affected, but only 40 were significantly damaged. In order to preserve them, they were wrapped in plastic and taken to the Beinecke Library for freeze-drying.
City, state, and federal law enforcement officials are investigating the crime. As of mid-June, no arrests had been made, and the motive for the bombing remained a mystery. Whatever the reason, Kronman says he is determined not to let security considerations diminish the school’s openness. “This is an exceptionally free and open institution, and not accidentally so,” he says. “While we’re mindful of the need to take precautions, we are all unwilling to give that up.”
Graduate Students Reject GESO
The Graduate Employees and Students Organization (GESO) suffered a setback in its quest for union representation of teaching assistants when it held a non-binding referendum on April 30. Most people had expected a symbolic victory for GESO, but the vote went 694-651 against unionization. About 66 percent of eligible graduate students turned out.
The upset appears to have been driven mostly by a hastily assembled group of graduate students who say they were angry about GESO’s aggressive organizing tactics, citing frequent visits by recruiters to students' homes, offices, and labs. “People were being harassed,” says Katherine Marsland, a graduate student in psychology and an opposition leader. “Some were seriously considering legal recourse.” GESO’s opposition has historically been low-key, consisting mainly of a loosely organized group called GASO, but GESO’s stepped-up recruiting campaign in the weeks before the election galvanized opponents. Marsland sent an e-mail to ten colleagues suggesting they get organized themselves. “Overnight, it got forwarded across the university,” says Marsland. “We found that there were cells of people all over the campus who felt the same way.”
Marsland’s group adopted the name At What Cost after similar groups fighting unionization at Brown and Cornell. With just ten days remaining before the election, they mobilized voters and matched GESO poster for poster across the campus.
GESO president Anita Seth says that union backers underestimated the division on campus over GESO’s participation in a strike in March, and that the non-binding nature of the election depressed turnout among supporters. “A number of our members knew Levin wasn’t taking this seriously and didn’t come out to vote,” she says. Seth also says, though, that the result is “an accurate reflection of where the campus is” on unionization—“about 50-50.”
The Yale administration had said it would not recognize the results of the election, which was supervised by the League of Women Voters. “I think the results underscore the fact that GESO has regularly overstated its support,” says university spokes-man Tom Conroy.
But even the winners of the election are unsure just how to interpret those 694 “no” votes. “I was overjoyed,” says GASO’s Matthew Glassman, “but it was more anti-GESO than anti-union. At What Cost was formed with a common enemy, but what they have in common otherwise remains to be seen.” In fact, two groups emerged from the election to articulate more specific positions: SIC_of_GESO is anti-union, while Alternative-GESO wants to reform GESO and make it more democratic.
As for GESO itself, Seth says the election results and the complaints voiced during the campaign will be fodder for discussion this summer. “We’re taking this very seriously,” she says. “We’re going to spend the summer talking about how our organization works and how it could work differently.”
Was Mona Lisa Smiling for Two?
That smile. Its inscrutability has inspired fascination and frustration for 500 years. What was Mona Lisa thinking about? Now, Sherwin Nuland thinks he knows the answer: She’s having a baby.
Nuland, who is both a clinical professor of surgery at the School of Medicine and a well-known author, advanced this theory about Mona Lisa two years ago in his biography of the painting’s creator, Leonardo da Vinci. A recent three-part BBC documentary on Leonardo focused on the claim and supported it with new information about the painting’s likely subject.
Nuland, who credits the late English scholar Kenneth Keele with first proposing the theory in 1959, says that evidence in the painting itself and in what is known about Leonardo supports Keele’s idea. “Leonardo was fascinated by childbirth and the beginnings of life,” he says, citing, among other pictures, the artist’s famous drawing of a fetus in utero. He also developed geological theories about the development of the planet, and Nuland thinks the painting’s background represents his view of primordial earth.
As for Mona Lisa herself, Nuland sees evidence in more than her smile. Her fingers and face seem swollen as if in pregnancy, he says, and the way she holds her hands above her abdomen is characteristic of a pregnant woman. Recently discovered baptism records in Florence indicate that Lisa del Gioconda—often believed to be the subject of the painting—had a baby approximately four months after the painting was begun in 1503.
Leonardo is said to have kept the painting with him for the rest of his life. “He was preoccupied with this idealized vision of motherhood,” says Nuland. “It had a very deep meaning for him.”
Slave Manuscript Given in Gratitude
“I owe Yale big-time,” said Harvard professor Henry Lewis Gates Jr. '73 on May 30 at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Gates was in town for his 30th reunion, but he was at the Beinecke to help discharge his debt by presenting to the university the original manuscript of The Bondwoman’s Narrative. Experts believe that this 1850s-vintage tale, a 301-page fictionalized autobiography penned by one Hannah Crafts, is the first novel ever written by an African American slave.
At the ceremony, Gates, the W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Humanities and chair of the Afro-American studies department at Harvard, described how, two years ago, serendipity and a hip replacement gone awry resulted in his obtaining the manuscript. Confined to his bed, Gates had time to peruse antiquarian catalogs. In the auction offerings of the Swann Galleries of New York, Lot 30—a manuscript purportedly written by a fugitive female slave—caught his attention. The professor sent Richard Newman, an associate, to bid on the item, which Gates thought could sell for as much as $100,000. “Had I gone, other bidders might have sensed that something was up and raised the bidding,” said Gates. “But it turned out that Dick was the only bidder, and we got the manuscript for $8,500.”
Gates described the Beinecke’s collections, which he helped build while teaching at Yale, as a “vast repository of the black mind.” “I learned to be a scholar here,” he said, “and in donating the manuscript, I wanted to make a contribution to the library and the university I love.”
Alumni Chorus Plays the Kremlin
One night in Moscow recently, a group of Yale alumni found themselves with little to say to their dinner companions. So they sang. “There were three or four Russians at each table, and we couldn’t communicate through words, but through song,” says Yale Alumni Chorus member Tracey Ober '85.
The singing dinner, with members of the Spiritual Revival Choir of Russia, was part of the chorus’s ten-day trip to Russia in April. The main event was a concert on April 8 with the choir and the Moscow Chamber Orchestra at the Kremlin State Palace, where they sang Russian patriotic songs for a nationwide broadcast on VE Day.
The performance, which also featured famed baritone Dmitri Hvorotovsky, came at the invitation of orchestra conductor Constantine Orbelian, who had come to know the chorus during its 2001 tour. When chorus president Mark Dollhopf '77 put out the call for singers in December, more than 100 volunteers stepped forward to memorize songs in Russian and meet for rehearsals around the country. School of Music dean Robert Blocker went along to conduct. The trip was the third for the chorus, which was formed in 1998 for a trip to China.
The exchange won’t be the last between the chorus and the orchestra: They will perform together at Carnegie Hall in October, when the orchestra comes to Yale for a week-long residency.
Van de Velde Sues University Officials
Former Yale lecturer James Van de Velde '82 has added several university officials to a federal lawsuit he filed against the New Haven police in 2001. Van de Velde says that by publicly naming him as a suspect in the murder of Suzanne Jovin '99, the parties violated his civil rights and damaged his career, health, and reputation. His suit names as defendants president Richard Levin, vice president and secretary Linda Koch Lorimer, Yale College dean Richard Brodhead, Yale police chief James Perrotti, and deputy director of public affairs Thomas Conroy.
Jovin was found in the East Rock neighborhood dying from stab wounds on the evening of December 4, 1998; Van de Velde was her teacher and senior essay adviser in political science. Neither he nor anyone else has been charged in the murder.
Van de Velde’s name first appeared in the local media as a suspect within days of the murder, but the police never identified him publicly until January 11, 1999, after Yale issued a statement explaining why administrators had canceled his two spring-semester classes. Because Van de Velde was “in a pool of suspects” in the case, the statement said, his presence would be “a major distraction” for his students. Van de Velde’s suit says that “as a result of defendants' conduct, he was charged, tried, and convicted in the media, and therefore in the minds of much of the public, without regard to facts, logic, legal standards, or the rule of law.”
Speaking for the university, Conroy declined to comment about the suit except to say that “university officials have acted entirely properly throughout the investigation.”
Van de Velde now works in Washington, D.C., as an analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Joint Task Force on Combating Terrorism. A former dean of Saybrook College, he says he “can’t even visit New Haven anymore without feeling enormous pain. All the relationships I built with hundreds of Yale students, alumni, faculty, and administrators were destroyed.”
Laura O'Neill’s outstanding four-year collegiate track career, which ended in June, would clearly make her the best women’s distance runner in Yale history—were it not for her twin sister Kate. Running together for four years, the Milton, Massachusetts, natives went from solid Ivy League prospects to among the nation’s best as seniors. Laura earned six All-America, eight first-team All-Ivy, and eight second-team All-Ivy selections. Kate, meanwhile, notched seven All-America awards, ten individual Ivy titles, and six school records. She was named track athlete of the year in the Northeast district this spring.
At Class Day in May, the athletics department named Kate and Laura co-winners of the Nellie Pratt Elliot Award, given to a senior woman for outstanding athletic performance. It was the first time two students had shared the award.
“If not for Kate, Laura is as good or better than anybody I’ve ever coached,” says track coach Mark Young '68. “Kate has been ever so slightly better—but only because she has Laura to run with all the time.” Though other Yale runners are faster at short distances, nobody else on the team can match the O'Neills' workout tempo and minimal recovery time, Young says.
Their amazing Yale careers ended at the NCAA outdoor championships at Sacramento in June, where Kate finished second in the nation in the 10,000 meters and Laura finished fourth. Both beat their previous personal bests by about 30 seconds. But the two O'Neill sisters will continue to run together for at least one more year. After graduating, they’ll work in New Haven while training for spots in the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2004. Young puts their chances of qualifying at 70 to 75 percent.
Kate O'Neill says the decision to stay on and train was easy. “I really like both of the coaches, I like the team, and I like New Haven,” she says. “If it’s working well, why try to change it?”
Louisa Garry '87, a record-setting Yale runner, stayed after graduating to train for the Olympic trials in the 800-meter and 1,500-meter events. Though an injury left her just shy of the needed time, she says she doesn’t regret the decision. “In many ways, it made me more sure of my desire to coach after college,” she says. Garry coaches boys' and girls' outdoor track at Friends Academy in Locust Valley, New York, and also teaches English and history.
Remarkably, the O'Neills, consummate team-first runners and modest to a fault, appear to be oblivious to their unprecedented accomplishments at Yale. During the outdoor Heptagonal championships in May, illustrious track alumnae invited by Young were eagerly buzzing about the prospect of meeting the O'Neills. “They’re quite a phenomenon,” said Sarah (Smith) Gerritz '89, a two-time All-American for the Bulldogs. Yet the O'Neills themselves seemed awestruck by the alums they had overshadowed. “They were really cute about it,” recalls Garry. “They were like, ‘Wow, Sarah Smith.’ I don’t think they realize what they’ve done.”
Two days of entertaining prospective students at the annual Bulldog Days recruiting event left this inflatable Handsome Dan dog tired.
From the Collections
Years before Saddam Hussein came to power, styling himself as a latter-day Nebuchadnezzar, an American named Lewis Adair Payne bought a handsome clay cylinder in Iraq that dates back to Nebuchadnezzar himself. Payne’s 1952 purchase, used by the family over the years as a doorstop, paperweight, and bookend, turns out to be the only known copy of an inscription dedicating the Emah temple to the goddess Ninmah after its restoration by Nebuchadnezzar in the sixth century BCE. After Payne’s grandson Bracken White '96MBA brought the six-inch-high cylinder to the Yale Babylonian Collection and learned of its value, his parents, Tom and Robin White, donated it to Yale.
Please Eat the Daisies
As if a $35 million renovation and a new organic dining hall menu blessed by restaurateur Alice Waters weren’t enough, Berkeley College’s latest initiative sounds even more Edenic. This summer, the college is starting a program of “edible landscaping.” The courtyards will be planted with herbs and other edible plants that also have ornamental qualities, and these will be used in dining hall cooking when possible—or just for noshing. “Imagine reaching down off the bench while reading to pick a few alpine strawberries,” says Josh Viertel of the student group Food from the Earth, which is sponsoring the initiative.
Responding to widespread public criticism of its debt-collection policies, Yale–New Haven Hospital announced a number of reforms to those policies in May. The hospital said it would close 170 past-due accounts that are more than five years old and would have collection attorneys seek preapproval from the hospital before attaching liens to patients' homes. State attorney general Richard Blumenthal '73JD sued the hospital in February over its alleged underuse of charitable funds available to low-income patients. The hospital is separate from Yale University, but several Yale officials serve on its board, and the two institutions engage in joint operations.
Beinecke Library director Barbara Shailor and chemistry professor Andrew Hamilton are the newest deputy provosts of the university. Provost Susan Hockfield appointed the two in May to succeed Diana Kleiner and Pierre Hohenberg, who will return to teaching. Shailor’s portfolio will include the university’s fine arts institutions. Hamilton will focus on the sciences.
The Berkeley Divinity School, an Episcopal seminary affiliated with the Yale Divinity School, has named the Rev. Canon Joseph Harp Britton as its dean. Britton, a theologian who has held several posts in the American Episcopal Church’s European wing, is a graduate of Harvard and the General Theological Seminary. The previous dean, R. William Franklin, left after a dispute with the university over the school’s finances.
Some students with summer travel fellowships had a change of plans when the university said it would not fund or grant credit for student work done in countries where the SARS virus was prevalent. A similar new policy discourages travel to countries that are unstable or experiencing armed conflicts.
Bacon and Eggs Won’t Make You Thin
Despite the renewed popularity of the Atkins diet, researchers at Yale and Stanford have determined that a low-carbohydrate diet does not have any bearing on weight loss. In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the researchers looked at data from 107 weight-loss studies and found that cutting calories, not carbs, was the main factor. Also important was the duration of the diet: The longer participants cut calories, the more likely they were to lose weight. The authors said there was not enough evidence about the long-term health risks of low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets to recommend for or against them.
The men’s and women’s golf teams both won their Ivy League championship tournaments this year, their first tandem win since 1997. Brian Kim '06 also won the men’s individual title. The women’s team has now won five of the seven championships in league history.
Also taking an Ivy League title was the women’s lacrosse team, which shared the honors with Princeton and Dartmouth. The team finished the regular season ranked ninth in the nation and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament (their first trip since 1985), where they defeated Syracuse in the first round but lost to top-ranked Loyola in the quarterfinals.
On June 7, the heavyweight crew endured its worst defeat in the Yale-Harvard Regatta since 1911. The Crimson, this year’s national champions, finished 49.8 seconds ahead of Yale in the four-mile race. Harvard also won the junior varsity and freshman races.
All-American hockey player Chris Higgins '05 signed with the Montreal Canadiens in May, dashing Eli hopes that he would remain a Bulldog for at least one more year. “It came down to which place I could develop better,” said Higgins.
The university’s new batting cage near Yale Field was dedicated in April to Kyle Burnat and Nicholas Grass, two sophomore pitchers who died in a January auto accident that also killed two other undergraduates.
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